I am going to address a topic that I should have written long ago. This is the result of working more than 3 years on social networks (mainly Facebook and Twitter).
The company I founded, Commentag, made different social products. We released Tweetag end of 2008, the first semantic search engine for Twitter. In 2009, we launched Europatweets, a social media based on Twitter for European affairs. We also explored ideas like social CRM, user certification programs, monitoring tools and so on…
During that time, we had the opportunity to talk with a lot of people, including journalists, editors, social media experts(!) and other media-minded people.
Let’s reframe the situation: it was 2008-2009, a world economic crisis led some companies, including banks and newspapers, to bankruptcy. The crisis didn’t help journalists to be optimistic about their future. Even today, traditional medias see their business model put in question, but that’s another story.
In that context, some journalists told us they were afraid social media would kill their job, and lead to the end of the industry.
I think there are two kinds of information:
The first type of information is the one produced by news agencies: raw instant information; available as soon as possible, often unchecked, with no analysis nor background. This information has low value and is the most probable to be in competition with social media.
The second type is (should be) the one present in the medias: refined information; based on cross-checked facts, explaining the background and analyzing the issue. I expect medias to present valid, accurate, analyzed information.
Let me be straight: if you call yourself a journalist, work for a media and are afraid of Twitter, quit your job immediately. Simply because your job is not to provide raw information, but to refine it.
That’s it. Or is it? Well, no. There is another main difference in social media: they convey personal information. That’s information that is meaningful to a particular reader. First because it matches the reader’s interests. There is an increasing trend to offer more specialized content and to address niche markets. Second, it also matches the reader’s relationships. This means that an information can be meaningful for that particular reader and completely worthless for others, even if they have share common interests.
This is why I think social media is not in direct competition with traditional media about information.
But, there’s a catch, and it’s not only newspapers’ concern: a day still has 24 hours a day. And all medias, in fact all entertainment channels, fight for a piece of the same cake. The cake stays the same but as more challengers comes into play, pieces becomes smaller. All medias struggle for people’s attention.